Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Jesus and Nonviolence

It struck me while reading this that "nonviolence" is not the same thing as Pacifism.  The latter includes the former, certainly, but the latter has political connotations that the former does not.

Wink suggests that "nonviolence" is a third way beyond Institutional Violence and Pacifism.  The former, argues Wink, represents the "principalities and powers" while Pacifism simply accepts the status quo, thus further strengthening the powers.   I think Wink's analysis of the situation is a bit simplistic, but he offers some unique insights on application.

Wink rebuts crass readings of Jesus and Romans 13 that urge passivity.  In its context, true nonviolence "provides a way to take on the system in a way that unmasks its essential cruelty and burlesque its pretensions to justice, law, and order" (Wink 21).  In other words, we are to deprive the oppressor of a situation where force is effective.

In short, Wink argues, quoting Ghandi, nonviolent revolution is a "program transforming relationships, ending in a peaceful transfer of power" (71).

So what do we make of it?  In today's Big Brother state whose methods of warfare are simply beyond what we can fathom, any attempt at "armed rebellion" is essentially suicide.  Jesus knew that.  The apostles knew that.  Practically speaking, it is.  These principles of nonviolence allow for a way to deconstruct social situations that affirm the humanity of the Other, thus ending at and aiming for an ontology of peace.

This sounds good on paper, as Wink is well aware of.  Most of the examples of nonviolence, while successful, were quite nervy.  Most people probably aren't up for that.

This book is a marked improvement on Wink's earlier treatments, though with some shortcomings. To be sure, Wink acknowledges that Communists and Marxists have done terrible evils (he was noticeably silent in Unmasking the Powers on this point).  On the other hand, Wink continually rails against "The Powers and Principalities," but we are never quite sure "who" these entities are.   I realize he covered that in his earlier volume, but he could have spent two more pages explaining it here.

All in all, an enjoyable read.

1 comment:

  1. I've appreciated Yoder's non-violence biblicism, which was rooted much more in a traditional underground/anabaptist tradition than the liberal/progressive theology of most non-violence positions (including many self-proclaimed anabaptist). That is: we're to be non-violent because Jesus commanded us such, that is the moral order of God's full revelation, and that God will bring His wrath to bear and avenge. I get so irritated with the neo-Anabaptism that wastes an incredible amount of time in Marcionite pursuits, convincing no-one except those who already agree with their instincts.